Wendyl Wants to Know: Artificial sweetener leaves a sour taste
Continental Cook-in-Bag Honey BBQ Chicken
$2.24 for 52g (serves four)
Cooking in oven bags is a way to ensure your meat is basted continuously while cooking but, with all the warnings about chemicals leaching from plastic when it is heated, you might think twice about this method.
The good news is that I could find no evidence that this is harmful as the bag is made out of a nylon which can withstand high heat.
This "meal base" as they are known in the trade contains a sachet of flavouring and an oven bag into which you pop some chicken drumsticks and the contents of the powder sachet and cook.
On first glance, it would appear that most of the sachet is made up of sugar and, despite the use of honey as a flavour, there is very little in here. Let's see what else is in it.
Dextrose (contains sulphites)
This is another name for glucose which is a simple sugar. From what I could find, sulphites are mentioned here because they can occur naturally in dextrose. Some people suffer from sulphite allergies especially asthmatics.
This is brown sugar as you would put on your porridge.
Thickeners (1422, 412)
The first number refers to acetylated distarch adipate which is a starch - likely to be corn, wheat or soy - treated with acids so it can cope with lots of stirring and high temperatures.
The second is guar gum which is extracted from the guar shrub found in Pakistan and India. Both are in here as thickeners to make the sauce which collects in the bottom of the bag into a gravy.
Flavour (contains wheat derivatives)
This is most likely to be an artificial flavour: chemicals which probably mimic a barbecue or smoky flavour.
Spices (mustard, chilli, ginger)
Honey (1.5 per cent)
The use of honey will be mostly for flavouring rather than as a sweetener. At 1.5 per cent, this adds up to about 0.19 of a gram of honey per serve.
This will be dried egg white which is turned into a powder.
Garlic (1 per cent)
Dried and powdered garlic for flavouring.
Food acid (330)
This is citric acid most likely in here as a preservative.
Not sure what oil but could be palm oil or canola oil.
Nice to see a natural colour used. Turmeric is a root similar to ginger which is used often in Asian cuisines and is thought to have many health benefits.
I don't know why artificial sweeteners would be needed in this product as it is mostly sugar. Perhaps it is an effort to bring the sugar content down but get a sweeter flavour. These two sweeteners are not popular ones, in fact one of them is banned in the United States.
The first is acesulphame potassium (950), a chemical 200 times sweeter than sugar. Its approval for use in 1988 was controversial as the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington consumer group, said that animals fed this in two different studies suffered more tumours than others that did not receive the compound. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) said that four long-term animal studies in dogs, mice and rats had not shown any toxic effects and approved its use.
Most worrying is that, when heated to decomposition, it emits toxic fumes, according to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter M.S. So putting it in an oven bag and heating it at 180C might not be something you want to do.
The second artificial sweetener is calcium cyclamate or sodium cyclamate (952) and has been banned in the United States since 1969 because it was found to cause bladder cancer in rats. Healthy eaters will not want to consume this.
This product is a source of phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is a naturally occurring amino acid present in artificial sweeteners. It is of concern to people who have the genetic metabolic disorder phenylketonuria or PKU.
I wouldn't consume anything with an ingredient which has been banned in the US, mainly because there are so many additives in processed foods over there that for something to be banned, it really must be bad.
The banned cyclamate is also an artificial sweetener which doesn't need to be in a product which is already mostly sugar. For every 13g serve of this recipe base, there is a massive 11.3g of sugar which is nearly three teaspoons, adding up to nearly 12 in the whole flavouring sachet.
So why don't you save yourself the 15 ingredients it takes to make this powder and sprinkle some chicken drumsticks with 12 teaspoons of sugar mixed with some spices and be done with it. Or you could forgo the sugar and just cook the chicken sprinkled with a bit of salt and some herbs or perhaps some soy sauce mixed with a little honey.
And if you want to cook it in an oven bag buy those separately.
* Contains an artificial sweetener which has been banned in the United States since 1969.
* Nearly 84 per cent sugar.
*There is no evidence that oven bags leach chemicals when heated.